Northwestern College professor edits book on father's WWII artwork

Dr. Michael Kugler, professor of history at Northwestern College, served as editor of a newly published book, “Into the Jungle! A Boy’s Comic Strip History of World War II.” The book features the never-before-published collection of comic strips hand-drawn by Kugler’s father in the 1940s. Book cover for

The late Jimmy Kugler was a teenager in Lexington, Nebraska, when the war ended, and he engaged his youthful imagination to recreate the Pacific War in a series of hundreds of six-panel comic strip tales. In his re-telling, the war was waged between the “Frogs” and the “Toads,” humanoid creatures brutally committed to a kill-or-be-killed struggle.

In the new book, published by University Press of Mississippi, Dr. Kugler provides a thorough analysis of his father’s adolescent art and explains how a small-town Midwestern boy distilled the popular culture and media coverage of his day into his own war narrative, fought on his own terms. He also makes the case that the violent drawings are typical of comic art’s reputation for “outsider” or countercultural expressions of rebellion against accepted moral conventions.

Dr. Michael Kugler“When I began the project, I wasn’t certain if I could bring my dad’s comics into a complex historical perspective. I had to work from various approaches to comics, American popular culture, the history of youth, and other fields,” says Kugler. “My biggest satisfaction is completing the project and being pleased with how the argument and printed presentation turned out. My family and friends have been very positive about the book, and their opinions bring me great joy.”

Kugler also said he hopes the book will help readers see how closely young people paid attention to World War II, and how they often reworked the information, images, entertainment, news and propaganda of the war into something uniquely creative and exciting.

“Into the Jungle! A Boy’s Comic Strip History of World War II” is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Thrift Books and many other book sellers.

An art exhibit featuring a selection of Jimmy Kugler’s drawings, along with photographs from his hometown and high school days, is open until March 3 at the Te Paske Gallery, Korver Visual Arts Center, on the NWC campus.

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